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Contemporary Art Center

Peoria’s cultural hub features art exhibits and gallery talks, artist studios, bi-monthly salsa dances, poetry open mic and instruction in dance, yoga and art. Live music is featured every Friday night, and special events happen throughout the year.

Contemporary Art Center


Be a catalyst and forum for advancing, developing and understanding contemporary art.

Educate culturally and artistically diverse students of all ages.

Provide opportunities for viewers and artists through culturally and artistically diverse exhibitions.

Educate the public about artwork, events and issues relating to contemporary art.

Enrich the community through new, and innovative, cultural events.


The story of The Contemporary Art Center of Peoria (CAC) begins in 1994, when artist/musician Preston Jackson and other artists were searching for new studio space. Their idea was for artists to work together in an environment in which they both could create and encourage viewing and discussing contemporary art. Joining a small group of investors in buying and renovating three turn-of-the-century warehouse buildings on Peoria’s then relatively undeveloped riverfront, the artists opened the Checkered Raven Galleries and Studios in July 1995. They located the facilities on the second and third levels of one of those three buildings, known today as The RiverFront Arts Center.

It wasn’t long before the artists realized they needed broader-based support to bring their dream to reality, and to do so in a way that addressed varying needs of a culturally diverse community . And so the following year, they brought together a group of area residents with similar interests to found The Contemporary Art Center of Peoria (CAC) as a not-for-profit umbrella. CAC’s impact on the community was immediate and significant. Less than a year later, two national arts magazines had heralded our organization for our exhibits and the quality of our presentation space. That same year, the opening of Preston’s epic masterwork, Bronzeville to Harlem, was called the year’s “art event of Peoria” after more than 3,000 people of all walks of life attended – often waiting in lines that reached as long as two blocks.

The organization reached a key milestone in 1997, when CAC received its official 501(c)(3) designation from the Internal Revenue Service. That enabled contributions to be fully tax deductible under the law, and CAC was ready to take the next step.

In January 2003, William Butler, a resident artist since 1996, took the position as Executive Director. His experience as a professional artist, leader and business owner has brought strong leadership to the center.

The Contemporary Art Center exhibits work indicative of contemporary art trends by living artists (primarily Illinois). CAC presents at least 14 exhibitions in its two rotating galleries each year, featuring the work of local, national, and even international artists. Special attention is made to display work reflecting cultural diversity. A third gallery showcases the work of CAC founder Preston Jackson.

In 2017, CAC brought CIAO (Central Illinois Artists Organization) under our nonprofit umbrella, expanding the opportunities for all artists.

The CAC is open and free to the public during regular business hours: 11am – 5pm, Tuesday through Saturday, and 11am – 8:30pm on Fridays. With all the activity, the center is used on average about 12 hours daily. It maintains one of Peoria’s most culturally diverse memberships.


305 Southwest Water Street
Peoria, IL 61602
+1 (309) 674-6822

No refunds
William Butler
+1 (309) 674-6822
[email protected]
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